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Happy Winter Solstice: Cold Weather, Doomsday Predictions, and a New Era

Dec. 21, 2012 is the beginning of winter, and for some the end of the world.

Welcome to the winter solstice, and a day of doomsday predictions.

According to Almanac.com, this year's winter solstice arrived at 6:12 a.m. and was the earliest since 1896.

Today is also the shortest day of the year for those in the Northern Hemisphere -- the time when the sun reaches the most southern point in the sky. If you're in Alaska, you won't have any daylight hours -- bummer.

However, in the Southern Hemisphere, it's the longest day of the year. For those folks, the days will now get progressively shorter.

Because the Earth orbits at a angle of 23.5 degrees, its Northern and Southern Hemispheres switch places in receiving sunlight and warmth most directly on this day, according to information on Earthsky.org.

Therefore, for those of us in the United States, the winter solstice is a time that begins a season of the coldest weather -- frigid wind gusts, ice storms and blizzards for some. Check your local weather here.

This year the winter solstice also has the rare honor of being the end of the Mayan calendar. And, for some that fact means today is also the end of the world.

All over doomsday predictors are hosting end-of-the-world parties, just in case none of us are here tomorrow. But experts say it won't be the end of the world, but rather the beginning of a new era -- the birth of a new age.

In Mexico, for example, a group of self-described shamans, stargazers, and others are gathering at the Yucatan peninsula to celebrate a "New Era," which they believe begins about 5 a.m. local time Friday, according to this post from Christian Science Monitor.

So whether you're celebrating the beginning of super wintry weather, partying like there's no tomorrow, or rejoicing that tomorrow begins a new worldy consciousness, Dec. 21, 2012 is definitely one for the history books.

For more facts about the winter solstice, check out this piece by the Washington Post.

-- How are you celebrating Dec. 21, 2012? Let us know in the comment section. --

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